What is the social relevance of Les Miserables?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think one of the strongest points of social relevance is that Hugo brings out the reality of those who are on the lower end of the social and economic spectrum.  The social relevance of Les Miserables is that there is a legitimate discussion about what it means to be poor and to be out of political, economic, and social power.  The emphasis on the predicaments of characters like Valjean and Fantine bring to light how Hugo sees those who are disempowered by the Status Quo.  Rather than discard them or simply airbrush them out of the social narrative, Hugo writes them in, suggesting that if there is to be real change, it must include those who are on the bottom of the power spectrum.  This is the social relevance of the work, resting in the idea that transformation of what is into what can be is only possible when individuals are able to expand their own scopes of moral and ethical imagination into what can be as opposed to what is.  In constructing a narrative that takes into the account those who are silenced, Hugo suggests that to be socially relevant is to incorporate and integrate as many voices as possible into any existing narrative.

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